Friday, May 28, 2010

Geocaching - A Worldwide Treasure Hunt

Rummaging around in the undergrowth of neighbourhood parks is one of my favourite hobbies. Occasionally it leads to suspicious looks, but it is perfectly innocent; I am searching for geocaches.

A geocache is a small container that people hide for others to find using a GPS device. The most common caches are made from film canisters, eclipse containers or plastic lunch boxes but they can be any size as long as they can contain a log book for visitors to sign. They are usually camouflaged in some way and are sometimes hidden in items designed to look like something else.

I am getting better at this but there are still some I have not been able to find. I went back three times to one location until I found it exactly where the clue said it was. It was well hidden and only the size of the top of my thumb.

There are at least 1,300,000 hidden around the world and they are hidden everywhere from central cities to suburban parks and remote mountain bush walks. There are thousands of caches hidden in Queensland, including 440 within 10kms of central Brisbane. I have found 37.

I was going to write a blog to tell you about how it works, but then I found his cool video on Youtube that explains the sport. Enjoy ......

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A snake in the grass.

I have finally seen an Australian snake in the wild … !!
Like many New Zealanders I thought I would see kangaroos at every turn, a koala in every gum tree and I would have to dodge snakes, crocodiles and dangerous spiders every time I left the town. After six months exploring in three states, I have finally caught a glimpse of a little brown snake and it was slithering away through the long grass as quickly as it could.

It’s not like they haven’t had lots of opportunities to make themselves known. I have spent hours exploring native Australia, wading through the undergrowth, poking around under trees, and sometimes inside them. When looking for *geocaches they can be anywhere including inside hollow logs and under rocks.

I have met people who know people who have seen snakes, but I thought I would have seen lots of snakes by now.

If I had thought more about it I would have realised that there is a reason the daily papers don’t carry the latest snake attack statistics. There aren’t many.

So that brings my “Australian wildlife seen in the wild” collection to a few hundred kangaroos, thousands of beautiful birds, ten water dragons and various other lizards, no koalas and half a snake.

Perhaps I should go further north. I hear they have real live crocodiles there. That should be fun.

* A geocache is a small container that is hidden for others to find by using the supplied GPS co-ordinates. There are over a million of them hidden around the world. Look out for a post explaining more about geocaching soon.

Grandma on a bike

Technically I have always been a grandma on a bike but now I feel every year of my age. I am riding around on a powerful motorbike at 70kns at most and bracing myself for a sudden stop and a quick flight over the handle bars.

I know something is wrong with the bike as it sounds “funny”. It is kind of chugging along like an old steam train and when I stop the engine seems almost hot enough to produce steam. Yesterday the chain came unstuck and the bike skidded to a halt. Luckily I wasn’t going fast.

RACQ came with their enormous truck, (I am so glad I have RACQ). Unfortunately they didn’t have the straps they needed to secure the bike so they had to send a second truck. People driving by must have wondered what kind of a tragic accident needed that sort of attention. Not that small bike surely?

They finally got me home where I had another go at tightening the chain. It should be okay but what do I know? I have only been riding a bike for the last 5 months and I never intended to be a mechanic.

My bike is not very old but it seems to be going through a midlife crisis. It used to run beautifully but now it has all sorts of new problems.

  1. I need a new rear tyre. It started off as a slow leak. By using a pan of water I found the leak was at the site of my last puncture repair. I redid the repair and the next day ……. I had a fast leak and no air at all.

   2. It may have engine trouble. As well as the noise, it has been leaking water and using oil really fast. At least it didn’t spray me with hot coolant like it did on my last long trip.

   3. There was a rubber strap hanging down that wasn’t there before the great chain lock incident. I had it glued up again so when it gets hot I get the aroma of hot glue inside my helmet.

My poor bike needs some care and attention from experts. I suppose it could be because I have done nearly 9000kms since December. That is a lot of travel and a lot of wonderful adventures. Roll on the next 9000. But first …. Where is the nearest bike shop?

Exploding light bulbs and magnetic tunnels

There is a new tunnel under Brisbane City. It is called the Clem7 and it runs for 4.8km under the city and river. They say you can avoid 24 sets of traffic lights in the city by using the tunnel, but I don’t care. I like to see sky, even in the city. I don’t like that claustrophobic feeling I get when I realise there are tons of earth on top of me and I don’t want to breathe the enclosed air, especially on a motorbike. Most importantly, … I don’t want to pay the toll. It is against my principles to pay to travel on roads. That’s what taxes are for.

So, when I went into town recently for an interview, I tried to avoid it, really I did, but because I missed a turn off, I found myself on the road to the tunnel. Signs warned about goods prohibited in the tunnel. Notices advised that it was cheaper until May. I knew it was coming.

I was trapped briefly with huge trucks looming over me on all sides until a small gap appeared and I made a quick escape to a side road.

I stopped the bike and called for advice. It seemed I could avoid the tunnel by staying left. I was relieved as I passed the tunnel entrance and headed into the city above ground.

Ten minutes later, I realised I must have passed the turn off to my destination so I set up my GPS and followed its instructions. Back onto the highway and … back into the other end of the tunnel.

After I had finished complaining and whining in my helmet, I tried to relax and enjoy the trip. If I wasn’t so annoyed about being late for my appointment I might have enjoyed the chance to visit the city. At the end of the day I had travelled over the Story Bridge and the Captain Cook Bridge. I had followed the riverside esplanade built over the river and been in the new tunnel. I saw the stadium and the hospital and many parks. It could have been a nice tour if I had the time to enjoy it.

And ..... I might have been a little less frazzled if I had not been up so late the night before. I was still working on my laptop when my older son came home in the early hours of the morning, so I got up and turned on the light for him ….. or tried to. There was a loud bang and the light bulb flew across the room.

Some times I don’t even have to go out to find adventure.

Rest or R.I.P.!!

Riding my bike up from New South Wales to Queensland recently, I was fascinated by the road signs.

All through NSW there are community advisory signs that say things like, “Take a Break” or “Revive and Survive”, but as I crossed the border into Queensland I noticed a much more morbid side to the transport department signs. They carried messages like “Rest or R.I.P.” and “Every K over is a killer” or the cheery “Tired drivers die”. I was already feeling bombarded with the tragic possibilities of not getting enough rest when I came across an electronic sign that spoke to me personally. “Your speed is 97km’s. Take a break now.” Grrrrr

And there are warning signs on every little hill. Many of the Aussie mountains wouldn't even rate a mention in a younger and more rugged country like NZ. If New Zealand used signs the way the Aussies do, there would have signs every few minutes.  The Aussies seem to love signs and use them extensively. I counted 15 arrows on a longish corner and this wonderful group on Cunningham highway.

The corner is not that bad…… honest. I have seen much worse in the New Zealand outback with just two yellow signs and a stripe of white paint on the road.

Then there are the commercial signs. You know you are coming up to a town when you see the fast food signs spring up out of the ground like tall, flat, colourful mushrooms. Usually there are Red Rooster, KFC, Subway and McDonalds signs, possibly all in a line making it convenient to decide whether you "deserve a break today" or you can avoid making a home cooked meal by buying a trillion pieces of chicken with a bucket of sauce and "would you like fries with that?". These signs are typically about ten minutes from town and flanked by the more subdued signs of local cafes, motels and other local businesses.

What I find most bizarre are the signs out in the middle of nowhere. McDonalds is especially good for this. In a remote location after driving for some time without seeing any signs of life, a sign with the big yellow “M” appeared and said something like “Your next McDonalds is only 75 minutes away”. I didn’t get a photo of that sign but 20kms later I got this one. It is still 55 minutes away........

Are there really people who plan their travel around the next McDonalds? Is there a group of travellers who spend their time wondering where their next all meat patty, special sauce, pickles and cheese on a sesame seed bun is going to come from?

I quite like McDonalds. …..Occasionally. But is it really that important?

I much prefer to try new things.

There was the strange grey seafood soup, with the odd name I can’t recall, that I had in a small country village in Tasmania. It was delicious. And then there was the chicken Laksa I ordered in Narrabri from the Asian noodle house. Along with the chicken and veges, it had some interesting cubes of rubbery stuff that may have been dried tofu. … Or possibly not. Now that’s not just dinner. That is an adventure.